Flying Fox shows nerves of steel

By Jim Morton, NZ Newswire Updated July 31, 2012, 6:05 am

Jessica Fox may be a whitewater princess but that didn't mean she got the silver spoon treatment at the London Games.

The daughter of two world champions, Fox's Olympic debut began with a nightmare K1 heat run when she capsized and rolled in the tricky artificial rapids at Lee Valley White Water Centre.

Her score of 165.36 left her stunned, and well outside the top 15 cut-off for Thursday's semi-final.

But the 18-year-old junior world champion showed the composure of a veteran and backed her fearless skill to bounce back with an excellent second run of 100.33 to qualify in fourth position.

Sitting in fifth was Stepanka Hilgertova, the Czech 44-year-old who won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games when Fox's mother Myriam took bronze.

"I had a shocker in the first run," the Sydney student said. "Everything that could have gone wrong pretty much did go wrong with that run.

"I was really under pressure to pull it our for that second run because it is quite a tough field of competitors so I was really happy I could get a good second run under the belt.

"It was quite a big afternoon emotionally and physically."

Coach Myriam and father Richard, Australian Canoeing's high-performance director, also cut relieved figures at the finish line.

"There was a bit of shock (after the first run) but she's mature enough and tough enough to put it behind her," five-time British world champion Richard told AAP.

"I think it's certainly a good experience for her to do that on the second run because it's very character building.

"It's a very challenging course and you have to be brave enough to attack it. If you're nervous or tentative then you get beaten up."

Fox came into the Olympic competition on the back of three gold medals at the junior world and under-23 titles and was ranked fifth following solid displays in the World Cup circuit.

She's now proven she can handle the Games pressure to be a legitimate challenger to Spanish favourite Maialen Chourraut who was the best qualifier with 98.75.

Fox needs to finish in the top 10 of her Thursday semi-final to qualify for the final which follows more than 90 minutes later.

Australia's canoe double team of Kynan Maley and Robin Jeffery also qualified for Thursday's semi-finals with a strong second run to finish 10th in their two heats.

The C2 duo took the last spot with a score of 107.47 - just 0.03 better than German combination David Schroeder and Frank Henze.